THE UNCLE of missing yachtsman Steve Warren said the family would not abandon hope even as the US Coast Guard spoke of suspending the search if no trace of the vessel was found.

The US search for the four sailors on board the Cheeki Rafiki was due to end last night unless evidence showed the crew could still be located alive.

The Foreign Office said the US had gone above and beyond in its efforts to find the British yatchtsmen, Steve Warren, 52, from Bridgwater, Paul Goslin, 56, from West Camel, Andrew Bridge, 22, from Farnham and 22-year-old James Male, from Romsey. It said an RAF Hercules plane would continue searching today.

Steve’s uncle Albert Davey, of Royal Wootton Bassett, said the family were still hopeful, although they also had to be realistic about the situation.

“We realise we are praying for a miracle,” said the 76-year-old, of Longleaze.

“For his mother Margaret and the family they are still missing and there are going to be many difficult days ahead if the search draws a blank and ends. You have got to have hope but you also have to be realistic about the situation.”

The Cheeki Rafiki, based in Southampton, was sailing back to the UK from Antigua when it went missing on Friday, May 16 in the Atlantic. The US Coast Guard came under fire for ending the search after only two days, although it claimed that the crew could only have survived for 20 hours in such difficult weather conditions.

Relatives launched a campaign to see the operation resume, winning the support of celebrities, top sailors, politicians and more than 200,000 people who signed an online petition.

Albert added: “Obviously something happened, a combination of a possible fault and the horrific weather.

“The family are extremely grateful for the coverage the media has given them and in particular the petition which over 200,000 people signed in order to have the search prolonged.”